Man jailed after worker killed in trench in Denver

The owner of a contractor in Colorado has been sentenced to 10 months in jail after one of the company’s employees died in a trench collapse.

Bryan Johnson was found guilty of reckless endangerment and third-degree assault after Rosario Martinez, 50, died at a construction site in Granby, Denver in 2018.

Martinez had been hired by ContractOne Inc to undertake carpentry work and install drywalling, and was not trained in trenching.

According to a press release from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Martinez was installing a water service line at the site, where the trench had collapsed the day before. OSHA said Johnson ignored obvious warning signs and did not use a trench protection system.

It added that the company did not undertake regular site inspections, did not move excavated soil from the trench edge, or provide ladders for exiting the trench.

As well as his jail term, Johnson was sentenced to three years’ probation and was ordered to pay restitution of $25,000 to Martinez’s family.

Nancy Hauter, an OSHA administrator, said: "The evidence collected during OSHA’s investigation … reflects particularly egregious behaviour. Trenching is one of the most dangerous activities in the construction industry and Bryan Johnson failed to take any affirmative steps to protect employees, despite repeated warnings that work activities at the jobsite were hazardous."

John Rainwater, a solicitor at the US Department of Labour, said: "Safety and health is paramount and takes precedence over production or profits … Incarceration sends a strong message. We believe that prosecuting criminal cases has the ability to change the industry."

Image ©GCR, illustration by Denis Carrier

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